HJ/EDJuly 31, 2006

Cokato queens: six decades of crowns and gowns

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

This year’s queens coronation will signify 60 years of Cokato queens representing the community.

Cokato royalty hasn’t always been a Corn Carnival tradition, or a summer event, for that matter.

Cokato queens were previously crowned in the winter aside from the Corn Carnival.

It wasn’t until 1987 when the queen’s coronation was moved to coincide with the summer festivities of the Cokato Corn Carnival.

Before that time, the Queen’s coronation and the Cokato Corn Carnival had nothing to do with each other. “They were entirely separate affairs,” according to Mike Worcester, Cokato Museum director.

The year before, the 1986 royalty, Sally Cressy and Kari Shoutz reigned for an extra half year since the coronation was moved from winter to summer.

The first queen, Joan (Onkka) Peterson, was crowned in 1948. It wasn’t until 1969 princesses were chosen for community representation.

Even then, they only had the title of “runners up,” not princesses, according to Worcester.

Also, if there were less than seven candidates, there would be only the queen and one princess crowned instead of two princesses, according to the Cokato queen’s Committee.

The earlier requirements for candidates were that young women from the ages of 17 to 25 could run for Cokato queen. However, now, only the newly graduated class can participate.

The queens coronation has always been a “large-scale production” and continues today with the Corn Carnival, Worcester said.

The aquatennial was a highlight, explained Beverly (Shuneson) Irvin, the 1958 Cokato queen. The celebrations were much more publicized than they are today, she said. They were even on television.

Irvin remembers the parades and riding in Dr. Greenfield’s black Thunderbird.

“It was a good experience,” Irvin said.

“Royalty have always been viewed as ambassadors for this community,” Worcester said.

“When our ambassadors portray our community positively, it’s a benefit to us all,” Worcester said.

The title of Miss Cokato didn’t go without reward.

Unlike the $500 scholarships given away today, prizes for royalty were donated from local businesses including powder and compacts, silk night gowns, radios, and even $5 worth of stationery from the Cokato Enterprise.

Irvin remembers receiving a hope chest from the Legion and every merchant in town gave her something, including pieces of jewelry and pin-up lamps.

A history of royalty

Throughout the 60 years, there have been 107 queens and princesses since 1948, and there have been 10 sets of sisters who have become royalty, including Delores and Margaret Holm, Ruth Ann and Susan Hillmyer, Marianne and Joanne Pokornowski, Jane and Brenda Hess, Chris and Shawna Bodenhammer, Rhea and Abby Klammer, Kalista, Kambria and Ketrah Kirkpatrick, Stephanie and Michelle Melquist, Emily and Katy Neutzling, as well as Melia and Ashley Danielson. Also, one mother/daughter pair, Becky Johnson and Sara Sorenson.

Throughout the 60 years, Cokato has been fortunate to have representation in the Queen of the Lakes and Aquatennial royalties.

Karen Erlandson, 1966 and Sara Borg, 1994, have both been Queen of the Lakes while Shawna Bodenhammer, 1996 and Julianne Borg, 2000, have been Aquatennial princesses.

This year, Mickensi Danielson, Rachel Nelson and Katy Neutzling will be passing on their crowns Tuesday, Aug. 8, beginning at 8 p.m.

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